The Challenges of Nation-building in Africa By Abiakum Macbeth A. (PDF)
UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND STRATEGIC STUDIES
HSS806: POST INDEPENDENCE AFRICA
NAME: ABIAKUM MACBETH A.
MATRIC NO: 159015021
The Challenges of Nation-building in Africa
The term nation-building is synonymous to the development of a nation. Nation-building could therefore by define as the attempts made by any nation to foster or to better the lives of its citizens. It is the concerted efforts made by nations to lead their citizenry to the path of progress. Nation-building above all else is a visionary, constructive, creative, self-determined and patriotic activity.
Since the independence of African States from Imperial rule or Colonialism, African nations have faced and are still confronted with the challenges of nation-building. While some scholars see corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement of African resources by African leaders as the reasons for the ‘failure’ of African States i.e. bad leadership, some see foreign interventionism as the cause for the under-development of Africa. Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, blamed the underdevelopment of Africa to the capitalist and exploitative policies of the West.
While they may be many reasons for the challenges of nation-building in Africa, this paper focuses on the ideological as well as the theoretical causes for the ‘failure’ of African nations to make significant progress in building sustainable institutions. Like I mentioned in my introduction, nation-building could also mean development. And since development is a relative term, it could be difficult to measure the development of a nation outside its ideological and theoretical framework. Thus, to talk about the challenges of nation-building in Africa is to first of all understand what Africans perceive to be development. Is development all about amassing wealth, technology utilization or industrialization? It is all about competing on the global stage? If the answer is yes, then Africa is not far from being described as a developed nation when we take a look at the fertile civilization that sprang up in the Nile Valley in Egypt, the powerful kingdoms that existed in Africa before the coming of the Imperial Powers that ruined these institutions. Since then, African nations have not remained the same.
The biggest problem challenging African nations today as far as nation-building is concern is the lack of an ideological framework for development. African nations must first of all define the context of development before they can begin to formulate policies to achieve this. But unfortunately, African nations have not been able to carve out any development model for themselves. While some nations operate a capitalist form of economy, others run on socialism which also is alien to the inherent nature of the African terrain. African’s inability to develop an indigenous technology has greatly hampered the development of their economies. With the importation of tooth pick from China, chocolate from France and fairly used clothings from Europe and America while all the raw materials of these products are produced in Africa, Africa is still very far from overcoming its development challenges. African nations should take a clue at Asia and see how the Asian Tigers emerged to be powerful players in the international stage. Singapore could be a role model for them to emulate how she rose from a Third World to First World country. How did they do it? They looked inward, developed their own indigenous technology without relying on the West for aid or grants not even policy formulations.
Also, African nations have not been able to develop tools that could aid them in nation-building. By this I mean a model that would guide them towards nation-building. Capitalism was what propelled the voyages of discovery which eventually led to Imperialism. Socialism on the other hand led to Communist Russia pushed for the idea of state ownership of the wealth of the nation. While some African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah tried to carve a political philosophy ‘Pan-Africanism’ which championed the cause of independence of most African nations, the policy soon failed because it was rooted in the various forces that led to the colonization of African States. Since the newly independent nations were not ready for the so-called freedom they clamoured for, these leaders soon became stooges to their imperial masters.
Others like Dr. Julius Nyere of former Tanganyika experimented with his economic policy of Ujaama which was also rooted in Socialism. The policy failed because it was not borne out of the African ideology of progress. Ujaama was a complete opposite of capitalism which was already eating deep into the fabrics of the newly African leaders who saw wealth acquisition as a better alternative to accountability, good governance and the rule of law.
Thus since independence, the inability of African nations to develop a groundwork for nation-building has remain and will continue to be a challenge to nation-building. It will surprise you to note that some African scholars still trace the underdevelopment of Africa to Slavery and Slave Trade. They claimed that the best brains that were supposed to develop Africa were carried to labour in vain Europe and the Americas.
It is sad to note also that Africans have been ‘Europeanized’ or ‘Americanized’ so much that we don’t see any made in Africa goods as good enough for our own consumption. Our demand for foreign goods could be seen in all that we consume. Take a look at the home of an average African and you will see that almost if not all the items are made in China, Europe or America. This is a time-bomb that needs diffusion. Until Africans begin to look inward and start thinking for themselves and see formulate their own policies rather than depending on the West, IMF, or the World Bank, Africa could find it hard to overcome the challenges of nation-building. Why has African become the central stage for civil war, ethnic violence, deceases, poverty and the worst economically impoverished continent despite its abundant human and natural resources? Why is brain drain, illegal immigration to Europe rampant with Africans? Why has Africa become the dumping ground for unused European goods such as household items and even obsolete war weaponry? These and many questions which are begging for answers are the reasons for the challenges of nation-building in Africa.
I will conclude by saying that, these challenges could be overcome if Africans decide as Africans to look inward like the Asian Tigers did and work out a developmental blue print that is African. Care should be given to the fact that time is a necessary factor for development. Their thinking must change and they must not be too much in a hurry to compare themselves with the industrial nations of the world. No wonder a former minister of the IMF describe Globalization as a moving train which Africans must join or they are left behind even though Africa might not know where the train is heading to. Africans should learn from History how other nations went through different developmental milestones before they became what they are today. Europe for instance went through manorialism, industrialism, imperialism, capitalism, and you could name the rest to where they are today. Tough the challenges could be enormous; they are surmountable with the right mindset and placing of priority.
Walter, Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa